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How To: Dumbbell Arnold Press

Dumbbell Arnold Press
The Arnold Press is an excellent exercise for hitting the anterior, medial and posterior heads of the deltoid (shoulder) in one exercise!
This Arnold Press is best described as your regular dumbbell shoulder press with a twist.

Movement: Isolation

Targets: Shoulders

Required: Dumbbells

Optional: N/A

Dumbbell Arnold Press Form:

Sit on a bench and grasp two dumbbells in front of your torso at upper chest level, your palms should be facing your face and your elbows should be bent (picture the contracted top position of a seated dumbbell biceps curl).

Begin to raise the dumbbells while rotating your palms until facing forward.

Continue lifting the dumbbells until your arms are extended above you as if it were a regular dumbbell shoulder press.

Contract at the top for one second.

Reutrn the dumbbells to the starting position by lowering them while rotating at the same time so your palms are once again facing towards your torso at upper chest level.

Dumbbell Arnold Press Variations

Standing Arnold Press

Add your core into the equation by performing the Arnold press standing as opposed to seated.
You'll most likely find a reduction in weight necessary when performing the standing variation.

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Common Dumbbell Arnold Press Mistakes

Not Hitting All Parts Of The Deltoid

Your shoulder is not just made up of one muscle, the shoulder is comprised of 3 ‘heads’, these are known as:

  • The anterior deltoid (the front of your shoulder)
  • The medial deltoid (the side of your shoulder)
  • The posterior deltoid (the rear of your shoulder)
See also
The Scott Press: The Best Shoulder Exercise You've Never Heard Of

If you are not training all 3 heads you will not get round, full shoulders.

Shoulder training is based around 2 main movements, presses and raises, the traditional dumbbell and barbell presses are a great starting exercise for your shoulder routine as they are a compound exercise (and therefore hit all heads of the deltoid) we can then hone in on the anterior, medial and posterior heads individually through different variations of raises.

Bouncing The Weight

Your stance should be shoulder width and you should maintain a slight bend in your knee (I have seen quite a few people performing standing shoulder exercises with locked out knees, however for stability and reduced risk of injury a slightly bent knee is superior).

At the bottom of the repetition you pause for a split second before proceeding with the following rep – no bouncing.

Using A Partial Range Of Motion

Partial reps can be used to push yourself beyond your point of failure at the end of your set, however strict, full range of motion must be practiced first.

The barbell or dumbbells should be raised until they are at face level before being lowered down until your arms are fully extended in front of you.

Poor Scheduling Of Your Shoulder Workout

I highly recommend having at least 1 day between your chest and shoulder workouts.
The flat barbell bench press, incline bench press and dips place a large amount of tension on the front deltoids (even though the chest is the primary muscle targeted during this exercise).
If you’re going straight from a heavy chest workout on Monday into a shoulder workout on Tuesday you won’t be getting the best bang for your buck out of your workout – your shoulders will be recovering and from my experience you won’t be able to lift anywhere near as heavy as if they were fresh.

See also
How To: Plank

Ongoing, excessive amounts of stress placed on the shoulders can result in a shoulder impingement which’ll have you out of performing the vast majority of upper body exercises for weeks if not months, not good.

If you’re strapped for time and can only train three times a week the push/pull/legs workout regime is an option which hits both chest and shoulders in the same (push) workout however if you’re able to train 5 days a week I recommend performing a split in the following order:


Alternatively, through a leg or rest day between your chest and shoulder workouts.

Similar & Substitute Exercises 

  • Barbell Overhead Press
  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press
  • Dumbbell Front Raise
  • Clean & Press

Any Questions Regarding The Dumbbell Arnold Press? Ask Below!

Scott J.
Scott J.
I’m SJ. I’m a fitness enthusiast and published author. I transformed my body from a skinny fat 135lbs with 18% body fat to a solid 192lbs at 8% body fat. I became qualified in a field I was passionate about. I founded several online businesses that allow me to pursue ideas and projects in my life that I am passionate about without having to constantly worry about money. I published several eBooks explaining the training and dieting techniques I used to achieve the body I have today. I learnt a plethora of new information on dieting and fitness by reading and applying what I read, to find out what does work and what doesn’t work, because as I’m sure you’ve noticed the health and fitness industry is full of non-sense claims and BS. I found out what was true and what worked for me and applied that knowledge. And you bet I had fun during the whole process.

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